Southern Utah community honors American flag, service members during Flag Day ceremony

ST. GEORGE — Veterans, city officials, first responders and community members came together Friday morning to celebrate and honor the American flag.

Post 90 Vice Commander Terry Dunne discusses the importance of Flag Day at the Field of Flags ceremony in St. George, Utah, June 14, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

The third annual Field of Flags ceremony, hosted by American Legion Lester Keate Post 90, featured St. George Mayor Jon Pike and Washington County Commissioner Gil Almquist as speakers. As they spoke, those standing in the St. George Historic Town Square Park were surrounded by approximately 100 American flags, while a much larger flag flew high as the St. George Fire Department used one of its ladder trucks to lift it into the air.

At the ceremony, Post 90 Vice Commander Terry Dunne discussed the history behind the American flag and its importance. Flag Day was established June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States. The first American flag is often known as the Betsy Ross flag, Dunne said, although there’s no proof that she designed the flag. It featured 13 white stripes formed in a circle to represent the first 13 colonies.

While Dunne recognized June 14 as Flag Day, he also said the day is significant because it’s the birthday of the U.S. Army, which formed June 14, 1775.

“The army is the oldest service branch and it is celebrating its 244th birthday today,” Dunne said, adding that the birthday is the reason he wore his army uniform from when he served in the Vietnam War.

Pike said the American flag is meaningful to him because he thinks of friends and family members he’s lost when he recites the Pledge of Allegiance during City Council meetings. Each star on the flag represents someone he’s lost. The latest friend he lost is Brent Taylor, who had been mayor for North Ogden, when he was killed Nov. 3 while serving in the National Guard in Afghanistan.

“I’ve never served in combat,” Pike said. “But obviously, we all know people who have.”

Junior ROTC members begin to raise the American flag during the Field of Flags ceremony in St. George, Utah, June 14, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Almquist reciprocated Pike’s feelings toward the symbolism of the flag. When he was 10 years old, Almquist would watch the news at night about the Vietnam War.

“In one particular occasion, many in the local area of our country began to oppose the war,” Almquist recalled. “I remember seeing someone burning the flag, and at 10 years old, I simply said in my heart, ‘That’s wrong.'”

A special announcement was also made toward the end of the ceremony by Pam Palmero, who served in the U.S. Air Force and is president of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce. In conjunction with the American Legion Post 9o and the Exchange Club, the chamber will be bringing a replica of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to Washington County on Aug. 7-10.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument sits atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C., at the Arlington National Cemetery and represents U.S. service members who were killed but whose remains haven’t been identified.

In closing the ceremony, Dunne said he hopes the Southern Utah community will never lose its patriotic reverence toward the American flag.

“May we continue to teach and explore everything that has anything to do with our freedoms,” Almquist said.

The American flags that stand in the town square will fly through Saturday.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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